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MacTech 2010: Daniel Jalkut on the Mac App Store and more


Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software (creator developer of MarsEdit, a TUAW favorite app for blogging) gave a talk at MacTech 2010 this morning about unit testing Mac apps, and while his developer talk was mostly over our heads, he did kindly allow us to corner him afterwards to chat about the state of Mac development and what he expects out of Apple's upcoming Mac App Store.

Like most of the developers we've met up with at the conference this week, Jalkut is hesitant but optimistic about the way the Mac App Store will work. His most recent issue is with so-called "land grabbers" on the App Store -- some developers are already grabbing up names (since submissions just started recently), and Jalkut is worried that Apple regulations means he won't be able to call his upcoming iPhone app by the same name as his widely used Mac app. "Which, as you can imagine," he told me, "is kind of a challenge and a problem."

It's not a huge problem -- Jalkut suggests that he can call the iPhone version "MarsEdit for iPhone," or something like that, but he says that even small quirks like app naming or build IDs can cause problems for professional independent developers like himself. "I appreciate that Apple's going through a lot of work here and there's going to be quirks, but it's the kind of thing that keeps coming up, where a relatively minor bug or a wrinkle or weirdness in Apple's book gets multiplied out to be a major headache for all of us developers."

It doesn't help that while we've already been through this App Store process once before, the Mac App Store is taking things back to a somewhat clean slate for most users. "What I think a lot of us are trying to figure out, in a relative vacuum, is what are the best practices for the Mac App Store apps." Since a lot of developers have made (or lost) significant amounts of money on the iOS App Store, the stakes are heightened on the next version. "It's a little stressful because we've learned from experience that you can make missteps in the App Store that are irreversible."

But Jalkut says that the silver lining is that he's not the biggest company trying to deal with these same issues on the Mac App Store. "I take some comfort," he said honestly, "in thinking whatever I'm going to go through, Omni's going to go through it, too. Hopefully, whatever solutions come out of that aren't special preferential treatment on Apple's part," but are instead solutions that everyone gets to use.

I asked Jalkut about his long awaited iPhone and iPad versions of MarsEdit, and he says that they are still being worked on, but the roadblocks to release are still there. "Technical reasons, my time, other priorities." He wants to make sure that when both versions come out, they both work correctly and don't feel like watered-down versions of the Mac software. And he agrees that having an app running well on all of Apple's platforms can be beneficial to any developer. "There's always a gain to be won by having a Mac app on the iPad and the iPhone. That approach is going to win not only customer satisfaction but customer sales. It makes sense for portability."

In the end, says Jalkut, whatever bumps the Mac App Store has to endure, it will probably be a huge benefit for both Mac software customers and the developers who create it. "I think some of these loyal iOS users who maybe have Macs or have had Macs for a long time but aren't into buying software for themselves, I think it's going to be a sense of kid in a candy store looking at this thing, curated by Apple, with all of this stuff in it. As a developer," says Jalkut, "I'm excited about that, because obviously I'm going to have a ton of new customers."

TUAW is a media sponsor of the MacTech Conference 2010.

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